Alaska Permanent Fund CEO retires suddenly

Valerie Mertz, the sovereign fund's CFO, will serve as acting executive director for 30 days after Mike Burns announced his retirement due to health concerns.

Mike Burns, who has served as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) since 2004, has suddenly retired over health concerns, the institution said in a statement yesterday.

“It was with regret that the board of trustees accepted the retirement of Mike Burns effective today due to health concerns,” board chairman Bill Moran said in the statement. “We appreciate the many years of service and outstanding performance that he brought to his role as CEO of the APFC.”

The corporation's board of trustees met via telephone for a special meeting to discuss the now vacant position.

Valerie Mertz, APFC’s current chief financial officer (CFO), has been appointed acting executive director for 30 days, during which time the board will seek to appoint an interim executive director.

Mertz first joined APFC in 1993 as an assistant portfolio accountant and left in 2002 as controller. Between 2002 and 2012, when she returned to APFC as CFO, Mertz ran her own business which provided accounting and controller-consulting services to non-profits and small businesses in Juneau.

“The board also announced that they will work with the corporation’s human resources staff to develop a process to search for a new CEO,” the statement said, noting that the process would take several months.

It was during Burns’ tenure, in 2007, that APFC began investing in infrastructure. As of March 31, the third quarter of fiscal year 2015, the institution’s infrastructure portfolio was valued at $1.4 billion, representing about 2.7 percent of the fund’s total assets of $53.9 billion. As of May 29, it was valued at close to $55 billion.

APFC was established in 1980 to manage the investments of the Alaska Permanent Fund, a sovereign wealth fund created four years earlier to protect the revenue generated by the state’s oil industry. Today, APFC also manages the assets of other funds designated by law, such as the Alaska Mental Health Trust Fund.